Peritoneal fluid is the substance responsible for lubricating the abdominal wall and the organs in the abdominal cavity. It helps prevent friction between the organs in the pelvic cavity as they move while digesting food. The fluid consists of water, electrolytes, antibodies, white blood cells, and bio-chemicals.
Peritoneal fluid receives its name from the peritoneum, which is the serous membrane that lines the stomach. A serous membrane is one that produces fluid. The peritoneal fluid is created by the peritoneum, which has two layers. The first is the parietal peritoneum, which is connected to the abdominal wall. This is where the fluid that lines the abdominal wall comes from. The second layer is the visceral peritoneum, which wraps itself around the internal organs located in the pelvic cavity. The peritoneal fluid that protects abdominal cavity organs originates in the visceral peritoneum.
Some of the organs in the abdominal cavity that the fluid provides lubrication for include the liver, spleen, gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas,and stomach. Without the presence of this fluid, their movement could cause irritation in this part of the body. This could lead to infection.
Although peritoneal fluid is extremely important, an excess can have serious implications. Liver disorders, heart failure, and cancer of the ovaries, breast, colon, lungs, stomach, and pancreas can all stimulate excess production of this fluid. The name used to describe the build-up of excess fluid in the abdominal cavity is called ascites.
Due to the severity of the illnesses associated with excess peritoneal fluid, identifying the symptoms is important. Some common symptoms include abdominal distention, trouble breathing, a feeling of heaviness or pressure, swollen legs, and the presence of blood in vomit. For individuals who may have cancer, symptoms could also include extreme weight loss and fatigue.
The first step in the diagnosis of excess fluid is usually a physical exam by a doctor. If this condition is suspected, an ultrasound or CT scan may be preformed. Some more invasive procedures for detection of excess fluid include a liver biopsy or removal of some of the fluid for testing.
Treatment for excess peritoneal fluid can include the use of diuretics to decrease its presence. Individuals suffering with this can also decrease their salt intake, which typically decreases fluid retention. In some cases, the fluid is removed using a syringe or shunt. In cases where infection is present, antibiotics may be used.